At its most fundamental level, the Camino de Santiago is basically a long walk. At deeper levels, it becomes a spiritual journey. It is certainly a wandering through a 1,200-year long cultural, spiritual and religious history. It is a commingling of kindred souls in a vast community of pilgrims, a strange community that is not fixed in space but flows ever westward toward Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Perhaps ultimately it is an analogy for life itself.
Millions of pilgrims have walked the Camino including many Catholic Kings and Queens, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, Lorenzo de Medici, Shirley Maclaine, a daughter of a US president – Jenna Bush, and even a US president – John Adams.
Adams, Vice President at the time, was appointed by Congress to travel to Paris to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain. Leaving Boston by ship with 350 people on board including his two sons, Adams faced a near tragic end. Two days out from port, the frigate Sensible began to leak seriously. After more than three weeks of day and night struggling to keep ahead of the water the captain put in at El Ferrol on the northwestern coast of Spain the 8th of December, 1779. Upon reaching port and in less than an hour there was seven feet of water in the hold. Being told that even if the ship was not condemned, repairs would take at least a month, Adams inquired about making the remainder of the journey overland. He decided to risk the latter rather than sit in port. So at dawn on the 15th of December Adams, his two sons, his secretary, servants, and hired Spanish guides and muleteers set off through Spain into France and finally to Paris. Adams’ party traveled in reverse most of El Camino de Santiago. In his autobiography when writing of this experience, Adams noted: “I have always regretted that We could not find time to make a Pilgrimage to Saint Iago de Compostella.”
It is legend that St. James ‘fought’ a long side the Spaniards against the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga and at all the battles of some 800 years between the Muslims and Christians during the Reconquista of Spain. Perhaps it was St. James as well who “intervened” on behalf of the fledgling United States of America. After all, Adams was most successful in Paris securing treaties and funds that helped to establish this powerful nation. Just a thought . . . .